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Ben Smith, Aaron Cruden to join Japan's Kobe Steelers

The Chiefs' Aaron Cruden runs the ball during his side's win over the Crusaders in Hamilton, February 8, 2020 Michael Bradley/Getty Images

New Zealand World Cup winners Ben Smith and Aaron Cruden will join Kobe Steelers, the Japanese rugby union team said on Friday, following in the footsteps of other high-profile compatriots like Dan Carter.

Cruden and Smith will begin playing for the team when Japan's Top League rugby union competition resumes next season in January 2021 after this season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Steelers won the Top League title in 2019.

Smith, the sixth-highest try scorer in New Zealand history, will join from France's Pau. He has 84 caps and was part of the All Blacks team that won the Rugby World Cup in 2015.

Cruden, who was a replacement for Carter when the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup in 2011, is set to make his 100th Super Rugby appearance for the Chiefs on Saturday.

They join a host of top international players who will feature in the Top League rugby competition next season, which will be headlined by New Zealand's Beauden Barrett.